Archive for June 23rd, 2008

Lifting the veil on National’s IR policy

June 23, 2008

National may be acting coy over their policies, but they’ve said enough in recent times that we can predict the basic shape of their industrial relations policy.

In broad terms, I don’t expect radical change. For sure they’re under intense pressure from their corporate paymasters to change things in the bosses’ favour, but there are two good reasons why they won’t go the whole way and re-enact the ECA (even under the guise of amending the current Employment Relations Act, which was the ruse they had planned in 2002 and 2005).

First, they appear finally to have learnt the lesson that NZers don’t want radical neo-liberal reform. The then IR spokesman, Wayne Mapp, was at pains to assure a conference of IR academics at the beginning of last year that this was the case. Since then they have the sobering example of Howard’s defeat, in which the notorious “Workchoices” law played a major part. (Not to mention ACT’s polling.)

Secondly, they don’t need to make major changes in favour of the bosses. The ERA wasn’t a return to compulsory unionism, union monopolies, and extension of awards across industries and occupations. You only have to look at the union membership figures — hovering around 21-22% these last 8 years — and the lack of large pay increases in the face of record low unemployment to see that the ERA hasn’t made a big difference.

So, what will the Nats offer their major sponsors in return for their support? (more…)


A funny thing happened on the way to the Kremlin…

June 23, 2008

This post’s for the grumpy old Stalinist with whom I’ve drunk an awful lot of Galbraith’s Best.

The results of the Communist joke competition have been announced, with the top ten published (and a few more in the comments). Here.

My favourite is an oldie but a goodie (judged fourth best):

Q. “Why do the KGB operate in groups of three?” A. “One can read, one can write and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.”

Enjoy! But remember, the KGB will be around later to find out which one you liked best. And why.

Lost in space

June 23, 2008

Matt McCarten reviewed recent political debate yesterday in the HoS, concluding that “our politics is rather sad and pathetic really, isn’t it?” He summed up:

“Despite the increasing challenge of oil running out and the impending environmental catastrophe, it seems our politicians would rather distract us with anti-tagging legislation, retracting KiwiSaver brochures, paying too much for hui and using women as a cynical election gimmick.”

Fair comment. Last week’s antics didn’t reflect well on politicians of any stripe, and the media continue to suck.

We should be debating how we’re going to secure our economic and environmental future, as well as cope with the recession in the short-term.

Issues such as our spending on research and development, both public and private, are infinitely more important than decisions by government officials to avoid anything that might be considered electioneering. (The latter actually reflects very well on the Government, if you think about it.)

The media have two defences. Firstly, their consumers have woefully limited capacity for serious stuff. If the media focussed on issues like R&D spending until the election, people would stop buying papers or turning on the tellie for the news. Arguably, the tiny minority interested in serious news has Radio NZ and the BBC on cable, so it’s well catered for anyway.

Secondly, there isn’t much policy to report and discuss at the moment. National are keeping their powder dry.

Let’s be clear. National are entitled to do this. And it may be to their advantage. But it has created an awful policy vacuum that short-changes the democratic process. Instead of debating issues and policy proposals critical to our future we are cast adrift in the thin atmosphere of policy outer space. And when I see reports in the news media about John Key being voted the sexiest politician and Nick Smith proposing in the sand, it feels like we are being forced to crap in our space suits.

[Update: Gordon Campbell helpfully sets out what he thinks National’s policies will be in the education, health, economy and lawn order areas, along with questions that need to be answered, based on speeches and announcements to date.]